Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Journal 9

"Avoid the Plague: Tips and Tricks for Preventing and Detecting Plagiarism" by J. V. Bolkan

Plagiarism is an unfortunate issue facing teachers today. Although it is a crime committed by the students, Bolkan's article offers that the teacher can do several things to discourage plagiarism in the classroom. The first is taking a clear stand against plagiarism and explaining to students not only why it is wrong, but why it is harmful to the students themselves and their learning outcomes. Less directly, teachers must understand that they are responsible for designing assignments and can develop several safeguards against plagiarism into the assignment itself. In creating a specific research question, requiring process work, and expecting students to be able to talk about their projects teachers make it more difficult for students to plagiarize. Lastly, once students have committed plagiarism, it is the responsibility of the teacher to discover it. Sure, services like can aid in this, but teachers should strive to know their students' abilities and writing styles well enough to know what they are and are not capable of producing. I appreciated that this article placed so much responsibility on teachers for changing the current trend toward plagiarism. Sure, students have the ultimate choice on whether or not to plagiarize, but if teachers just blindly expect academic honesty, then they forget their main role: to teach! Teachers have to set students up for success and the way that they design their lessons and develop the learning community in their classroom is vital to student learning outcomes.

Q1: What was my favorite suggestion that this article gave for preventing plagiarism?
A1: I think that emphasizing process work is really important. If students steal the work of others they don't get the chance to develop ideas for themselves. Finished essays nearly never come with rough drafts or topic proposals. Process work, since it is so rough, allows teachers to get familiar with student writing patterns and, at the base, it gives students experience with the writing process! I think that all English teachers need to understand that the finished product is not all there is to learning--the process can be just as instrumental to understanding. If we place all value on the end product, then students might be more inclined to plagiarize because too much rides on getting something perfect. As the article points out too, it's just so much of a hassle to create rough drafts that students may as well complete the final essay. By forcing them through the process then, it not only ensures original work but helps them develop lifelong skills for original thought.

Q2: Often students argue that plagiarism was accidental. How can the method learned in Journal 8 help students prevent their own "accidental" plagiarism?
A2: Well, this article explained that teachers detect plagiarism often by entering the paper into search engines and then checking them against similar web resources. If students kept all of their research on a computer in one coherent spreadsheet, as the research article suggested, then they could complete much the same process as a plagiarism-hunting teacher. If any parts of their own papers feel to them like they may be too derivative of their resources, then they can insert the questionable content into the search function on their research and see what matches they get back. This allows students to take responsibility for themselves!

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